Covid has had major impact on nurses and midwives

Two-thirds have considered leaving the profession

Deborah Condon

October 7, 2021

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  • The vast majority of nurses and midwives believe that Covid-19 has had a negative psychological impact on them, a new survey has revealed.

    It was undertaken by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO). According to its head of education and professional development, Steve Pitman, the findings “paint a bleak picture of how emotionally and physically taxing COVID-19 has been”.

    Some 85% of respondents said that their experience of Covid has had a negative psychological impact on them, while 97% believe it has had a negative psychological impact on their colleagues.

    Over 90% said they sometimes felt mentally exhausted at work, while 91% said that they felt mentally exhausted when off duty.

    Some 62% said they had cared for patients who had died of Covid-19, while 67% were stressed about spreading the virus to their household.

    Meanwhile, 68% said that they had considered leaving the profession, with 25% likely or very likely to leave within the next year.

    Overall, 22% had contracted Covid and of these, 56% had experienced long-term effects.

    “Nurses and midwives have faced an unprecedented increase in workload demands resulting directly or indirectly from the pandemic. Coupled with caring for patients with the virus, witnessing the physical and emotional effects on patients, families and loved ones has taken a psychological toll.

    “The vast majority of our members are now telling us they’re mentally and emotionally exhausted and this is going to have an impact on their safety and the safety of their patients,” Mr Pitman noted.

    He said that while the INMO has provided a range of mental health supports for members, including access to an online digital mental health support hub and a free counselling help line, the State needs to provide more practical resources and mental health supports for nurses and midwives.

    Also speaking about the survey findings, INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said that fact that two-thirds of nurses and midwives have considered leaving the profession cannot be ignored.

    “Before Covid-19 landed on our shores, we already sounded the alarm that the recruitment and retention of nurses and midwives was going to be something that the Government and the HSE needed to focus on.

    “We have to make sure that the predictions in this survey do not become a reality. We must immediately put measures in place to support our workforce,” she insisted.

    She pointed out that nurses and midwives have been at work “in a hazardous environment without reprieve for over 18 months”.

    “They must gain relief from the constant overcrowded work situations faced on a daily basis and fast-tracked clinical supportive measures must be put in place. Occupational health services are simply not available nationwide and many members report long waiting times for an appointment,” she noted.

    Ms Ní Sheaghdha added that Budget 2022 and the HSE Winter Plan “must make it clear how the Government plans to ensure that safe staffing is a priority”.

    Over 1,900 nurses responded to the survey, which was carried out between April and July 2021.

    © Medmedia Publications/MedMedia News 2021